Death of the Catalog?

This week, the Boston Globe shared that Anthropologie is piloting a program to replace its print catalog with an interactive downloadable format. I personally was sad to hear this news, as I love flipping through the Anthropologie catalog, and others of the same vein (J.Crew stands out in this arena, but even Nordstrom and Bloomingdales are eye-catching and entertaining). With print and mailing costs so high, will more retailers move toward online-only viewing?

The new Anthropologie catalog pilot centers around a tool that you download to your desktop, instead of just viewing through your website browser. It’s then touted with perks like the ability to write notes about specific items, or use the color-picker to only see items of a certain hue. Without experiencing this first-hand, I can’t say I’m convinced that I’d gain many benefits from this new tool vs. just using the website. I do understand and agree that having something physically on your desktop can serve as a constant reminder of the brand, and allow for continual interaction, but don’t see the differences or benefits from a shopping perspective. It seems they are going after people who aren’t as comfortable with online shopping and trying to transition them over with this “desktop boutique” concept.

Personally, I’d rather scribble all over the real catalog while on the bus (circling my favorite items and ripping out pages to take to the store with me), or use the web, which I am already accustomed to. As much as I understand and support reducing our environmental impact, there’s something lost without the joy of receiving mail from my favorite stores. Pretty clever that stores can make a catalog seem like a gift! I will be the first to admit that I always get a smile on my face after seeing that a new J.Crew catalog has landed in my mailbox.

So, all in all, I’d be eager to explore the new Anthropologie tool — but I’m hesitant/skeptical as to whether I’ll find it as valuable and heartwarming as their print catalogs. It will be a sad day for me personally if the great story-telling and emotion they bring via the amazing photography and layouts comes to an end and is restricted to online-viewing only.